All posts by Dan Higgins

Trying to Tri

I’ll set this in context before I go on. It’s January 2017, New Year’s resolutions are already falling by the wayside and I’m looking for ways to keep myself motivated and focus on something other than work. I had already completed a Triathlon and had vowed to never do one again. Nevertheless, I droned on about it and suddenly myself and 2 friends are discussing doing one.

OK, so we’re not super fit and we’d struggle to walk up the stairs, but suddenly this potential event was becoming a lot more real. We talked about bikes, transition, the best clothes to wear on the day, how to fuel up (sure we’re basically athletes, we can say that now) and what sort of times we’d be looking at. We talked ourselves into doing one, the Try-a-tri in TriAthy in Athy. It’s a 250m swim, 20km cycle and 4km run. An entry level triathlon aimed at beginners.  Between us we had a competent swimmer, a decent cyclist and a runner, so now it was just a matter of combining the 3 disciplines over the coming months.

We hit the ground, I’d love to say running, but sure we hit the ground anyway. First up was the swim training. Our competent swimmer was fine. The other 2 had a way to go yet before the open water swimming would be achievable. Next up was the bike. We all had mountain bikes at the start, but we soon realised that would be a mistake and upgraded to road bikes. Some of us borrowed bikes and some of us bought second hand ones. Then there was the running. The running was OK, tough to get out after work, but we managed as best as we could.

So we knew this wasn’t an Olympic sized event, but for the background we had this was our Everest and we were determined to climb it. We swam every week, we cycled every weekend and we tried to get out running/jogging 2 or 3 times during the week. We bought the gear, we squeezed into the wetsuits and we practiced the transition. All we had to do now was train, focus and wait.

The big day came. It was the June bank holiday weekend and we were nervous. The weather was fine, thankfully. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for our nerves. We racked our bikes in transition and set the area up for our change out of our wetsuits. Runners down, socks out, towel down, t-shirt down, snacks out, water ready, helmet ready and then check it again. Finally, the transition area was being closed; we had to face our commitment.

Standing there on the bank of the River Barrow in our wetsuits, trying to close them up over the clothes we had on underneath, reconciling ourselves with the fact that there is nothing more we can do now. Trying to turn the nerves from the enormity of what you are about to start into a focused energy. Then suddenly it’s go time. In the water, go, no waiting. Maintain your form; focus on the bridge, breath, and repeat. Keep the head and focus on getting out. People around us struggled but we supported each other before hand and we were ready. We kept our own time and focused on our task. Then it was over, we were out. Now a jog in the wetsuit to transition. Hat off, goggles off, arm out, other arm out, follow the route, find the bike, hit the floor, suit off, t-shirt on, helmet on, go.

Once you’re on the bike there’s a massive amount of comfort in having the swim done. You relax; take a gel, have a bar and hydrate. The route was 10k out and 10k back. It was a good pull at the start but then you relax and ease into it. You get your rhythm and get on with it. Before you know it you’re done and in transition. Bike up, helmet off, water taken and you’re away.

The run is tough. Your legs are like jelly and your body is sending quit signals the whole way. You think of what you’ve done and the small bit left to go. You distract yourself however you can. Count down time and look around. Stay focused on the end goal. Then you start to hear the distant sound of a loud speaker and you begin to feel the excitement of nearly finishing this mammoth undertaking. It gets closer and closer and your moral starts to lift. You start to engage with people around you and it’s almost over.

Then you get there and make a dash for the finish. Your name is called out and you pick up your medal and a wave of emotions wash over you. You’re tired, but delighted that you didn’t drown and could finish. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere and you welcome home the people who come in after you.

Would I recommend this to people? Yes. If you’re looking for a challenge or to push yourself then this is the thing for you. Can’t swim? Learn. It’s never too late. I started swimming lessons in February of 2016 and did my first triathlon in July 2016. Can’t cycle well enough? Practice. Getting out there is the only way to improve and it’s a great way to clear your lungs and head. Can’t run? Buy runners and use them. Aim for 15 minutes one day, 20 the next, 25 the next week and so on. Know nothing about triathlons? Read up about them. You’re not the first one to consider it and you won’t be the last.

Are we Ironmen yet? Not quite, but we’re stronger than when we started.

Don’t Read This, you haven’t got the Time.

You’re just a rebel, aren’t you? Reading this, despite being directed not to. Oh well, your fault if this turns out to be a waste of your time.

Time. Time is the only thing worth worrying about. Time is the only currency you should be concerned about spending. You get no refunds and there is no time owed to you. Your account balance is in a constant decline, there are no top-ups. There is no way to earn more time. Yet time is often the one key thing ignored by people and constantly wasted.

Time is constantly moving, sadly in the one direction. We often spend too much of our precious time wishing we could go backwards or forwards. Time spent wondering about tomorrow or annoyed about yesterday and no time spent on what you’re doing right now.

I see it all the time, you know. People living in different times. Chasing that feeling they had yesterday. Recording a moment to relive it tomorrow. Stop! For f**k sake, stop. Put the phone down. Pull your chin up. Look at what you are doing right now and be there.

It’s easy to say we’re in the present. It’s real easy to say we’re connected. It’s hard to stop, unplug and appreciate the little moments. Next time you’re at a gig or if your child/partner/spouse/dog/cat/stalkee is doing something wonderful, think about where you are. If you’re thinking about living that precious little moment through a 5 inch screen, stop. For f**k sake, stop! It won’t happen again. Take the feeling from that moment and embrace it. Put the poxy phone down and be there. Put your worry aside and be there.

There will come a day when your balance hits zero. What are you going to think then? Are you going to worry about yesterday? Perhaps you’ll have some regrets, we all have them. Are you going to worry about tomorrow? What’s the point, tomorrow has never come, every day in history has been today, the rest is just record keeping and guesswork.

I hope my final thoughts will be made up of snapshots in my head of all the beautiful little moments I have had. Pay attention to feeding the positive memories in your head. Be here, right here, right now. Need some inspiration? See below:

Dancing with your Shadow

Your shadow is always there, regardless of where you are. Even in a dark room you cast a shadow on something. It can be behind you, in front of you, beside you, under you and over you. It’s always there, casting itself, a constant companion.

A shadow is more than simply an area you darken; it’s something you carry with you for life. It got me thinking when I saw the (adorable) video of a little girl who was scared to death of her own shadow. A shadow for me is a reminder of what’s there. I have started to think of the whole area of mental health as a shadow of sorts. The shadow is the part you don’t pay much attention to most of the time.

A shadow for me symbolises our low points and our high points and being able to live with it and accept it is important, vitally important. Things will not always be sunny and the sun won’t always be in your face and that’s ok. Sometimes you’ll be gazing down at a long and enduring shadow as it refuses to leave you and sometimes it will be behind you and out of mind.
In my case my shadow is an anxious one. It shouts up ominous words at me and sometimes envelops me in its grip, stifling my every thought. It can be withdrawn, it can be out of sorts and it can be downright rude. On the flip side it can also be loving, happy and carefree. It can also be just ok, getting by and middling the road, nothing too fancy. It all happens and that’s ok.

When I saw that little girl I did briefly consider how ridiculous the whole concept was, I mean, scared of a shadow. But then I stopped being an ass and thought about it. We all have our shadows to fear. The hard part is realising that we control the shadow and what it thinks. Yes, ok, some people will try and get in on it, but you choose how to let them in. Some people will be nasty, they’ll try and bring you down and they’ll try and keep you down. You control their influence. You control how you much you let them interact with you in that manner. On the other side of it you have the people who will feed your shadow with healthy thoughts. They’ll hug it, they’ll embrace it and if you’re lucky enough they’ll even love it. Let the good people in, it’ll be worth it in the end.

The important thing is to not deny your shadow. Don’t pretend it’s not there. If you’re going to accept the laughing and dancing then you have to be willing to accept the crying and the curled up in a ball under a duvet pretending the world doesn’t exist. It exists and you do have to deal with it. Here’s the trick though. Your happy and laughing shadow will usually come with the help of others, but you’re muggy and head wrecking shadow may only go with the help of others.

So what do you do? Well, my advice would be to stop, breath and talk. Go to someone you trust. Go to your partner, go to a friend, go to a family member, go for a walk, go for a shower, go for a cycle, go for a hike, go to a counsellor, do something! It may not shake itself. It’s ok to need help every now and then. We all need a little TLC at times and accepting that can be the hardest thing to do. It’s not shameful or weak. It’s hard and it’s brave.

Accept it, own it and carry on.

I Don’t Believe it!

I don’t. It can be such a devastating phrase. I don’t do this and I definitely don’t do that. It can often define us in such a negative manner. I don’t is very much a character defining phrase, it makes up your beliefs and who you are. However, I would theorise that we can turn I don’t into an empowering phrase. Why just use it to show what we’re limited to? Why not use it to help us!
It’s a psychological thing though you see. It’s all in your head. It’s far easier and much firmer to say you don’t do something and to stick to it then saying you can’t do something or that you shouldn’t do something. For instance; “I shouldn’t have another beer” is usually followed by another beer. Similarly we have; “I can’t stay out too late” which usually leads to coming home in the early hours. Try it the other way now. I don’t drink more than 4 pints and I don’t stay out past half 11. It’s firm, it’s steady and it’s almost a certainty.
I don’t is a solid answer whereas the other answers are all susceptible to suggestion. It’s even easier to convince yourself of what you’re saying. I shouldn’t have dessert versus I don’t have dessert are two massively different answers. One is open to suggestion (the hungry fat voice at the back of your head) while the other is an end to an argument before it has even begun. It’s the difference between leaving with cheesecake and cream all over your face or with the dignity of knowing your pants will still fit in the morning.
So I’m going to give it a go. Here’s an example of some of the things I’m going to try and not do anymore:
I don’t eat dessert. A simple way to try and stop imitating the size of the equator with my waist line. This one should be ok since I’m not a massive dessert fan and the price of dessert is pretty hefty anyway. Besides, if you have Cheesecake as a starter it’s not a dessert, right? NO!
I don’t drink much. Again the wallet is being taken care of here. The hangover too, or rather, lack thereof.
I don’t dwell too much. What’s the point in wondering about what ifs and what could have been? Dwelling on something will only ever make sense if you have a time machine. Pick yourself up and move on. I did that today. Cycled in and forget my wallet and instead of dwelling on it I went to my wife (kind of like a little annoyed baby) and now we’re doing lunch.
I don’t do fizzy. No Coca-Cola. No Fanta. No Club Orange. No Red Bull. No Boost. No sugary carbonated drinks. They may taste nice but they ruin you, in many ways. Consider this: I use Coca Cola to unclog drains. Metal drains. Imagine what that does to your soft tissue.
I don’t curse. This is mostly for the benefit of my beautiful and wonderful daughter. It will be football boots this and cupid stunts that but I will endeavour to trap the words and my lips for fear of an embarrassing shopping trip full of expletives.
So there, there are 4 things I don’t do. It’s a paradigm shifting change. Give it a go. Find some things you don’t like and don’t do them. Everybody has them, the annoying habits and routines they don’t like. Empower yourself, don’t do it!

Eating Outdoors

I’m an outdoors kinda guy so it will come as no big surprise that I like to eat outside, have a coffee outside or have a pint outside. However, I find that leads to a problem for me, I hate smoking. I don’t try to shove that opinion in peoples faces but there it is, I hate smoking.

Smoking is peoples own business, if they wanna smoke, do it, it’s fine. It’s insane to me, I don’t understand how anyone sees any sense in it but fair enough. What I am seeing now though is a cultural shift against smoking.

It’s no longer all that acceptable in daily life. Even Leo the lion is getting smokers off government property. One employer even said he does not hire smokers and neither would I in his position. I even think we’re finally getting to the stage where one of the most addictive substances humankind willingly ingests is coming to an end.

My questions; are restaurants, pubs, cafes etcetera going to follow suit? Are the outdoors areas forever going to be refuges of smokers? Who is going to introduce non smoking outdoors areas?

Some people complain that all the new rules regarding smoking and the social stigma attached make it harder for them to enjoy their habit. Good! It’s not a habit, it’s not a treat, it’s not a pleasure, it’s an addiction. It’s a filthy, dirty and expensive addiction. Plain and simple. I feel sorry for smokers, sorry that they’re caught in the grasp of one of the most addictive legal drugs available.

I’ve never smoked, I will never fully understand it, that’s true. All I’ve ever seen of it is the damage it does to people I care about. When people tell me they had the power to quit I genuinely congratulate them, that must be extremely tough.

Maybe it’s time that smoking is pushed to the fringes of society. Not the smokers but smoking. Make it a chore to smoke. The chore may push people over the edge of quitting. It might make them sick of going out of their way to bring their chemical balance back up towards normal. That’s all it does by the way, it doesn’t give you a high it just levels you out so you’re on the same level as a non smoker, for a little while anyway.

So, people who sell booze, food and coffee, please have a non smoking area outside, that would be great.

What’s your Fuel?

I drive two cars regularly, one an unleaded family wagon and one a diesel hatchback with its routes stretching back to people wagons of old (the less said about that the better, don’t mention the war and all).

Everytime I fill them up I’m fairly fastidious to not mix up the ingredients. For a diesel engine putting unleaded in may not be the end of the world, but the other way another would be a system killing disaster. I’m careful with that. As any good vehicle owner is. I have seen people mess this very basic thing up and for them I wonder how they put their socks on by themselves.

The other day I had a can of red bull and I found myself wondering what the flip (I have a kid now, I can’t curse, well not openly anyway) I was doing. I mean yeah, I was tired, but then I thought about it. Why not just get tea or coffee? Why put that heart palpation causing crap eh, stuff, into my body. I’m careful with my cars, but not myself, that seems sorta stupid really.

Now I’m no Chuck Norris but it seems that since my daughter came along I am way more concerned about what happens to myself. So that’s what got me thinking about that. Realistically an engine is only going to run as smoothly as it can with the right fuel. If you really need proof then fill up with the wrong fuel at the garage the next time you’re in, see how that goes.

So, what does all this mean and what the flip am I, eh, pooping on about? Well I’m going to try something over the next month and the wife will say I’m stealing her ideas. No fast food. No fizzy drinks. No processed meals. Lots of water. Lots of proper home cooking. One coffee a day.

I’m going to see how that goes and I’m going to judge it’s effects by the following areas;

  1. How do I feel?
  2. How do I look?
  3. How much money did I save?

That alone should be a fairly good indication of the effects of giving in to the marketing and buying the red bull.

I invite anyone who reads this to try the same thing and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Good luck!

5 Reasons to Vote No

There’s a referendum coming up, just in case you didn’t know. The referendum concerns two issues:

  1. Should the age of a Presidential Candidate be lowered from 35 to 21 years of age and;
  2. Should marriage be extended equally to all persons regardless of sex.

The second one, as you would imagine, is gathering more interest. What with it concerning all people having equal rights and all. Here are 5 reasons you should vote No on number 2, maybe even number 1.

  1. You like things just the way they are: Change, why would you change anything at all? You like things the way they are. Everything in its place. Change is scary after all. The fact is that if this passes and we as a country vote Yes then Ireland will slip off the shelf and plunge into the Atlantic…FACT!
  2. Standards of Weddings: If we allow everyone to have equal rights and marry who they love then the fact is that the LGBT community will probably set the standard for Weddings impossibly high. There will be colours and themes that the average Irish man could never dream of or indeed live up to. Look at Panti Bliss for example. That chick knows how to throw a party. Imagine that. Shindigs like the country has never seen before.
  3. Increase in Tourism: Ireland voting No in this referendum will send a clear signal to the world that we are still that country which likes to segregate people, push people to the fringes of society and deny equality to all. We could see an increase in visitors from groups such as the Neo-Nazis, the KKK and perhaps even The Westboro Baptist Church.
  4. Parenting: Voting yes in this referendum might give LGBT people more power to have, raise, adopt and love children of their very own. Two people of the same sex raising a child couldn’t possibly do a good job of that. Never before in human history have we seen two people of the same sex raising a child. Nope, never. It would be a disaster. Like a Mother helping her Daughter raise her child or a Father giving advice to his Son. Imagine a child having two loving Mothers or two adoring Fathers? Awful stuff altogether.
  5. You’re a moron: That’s right. You should definitely vote No if you are a moron. If you believe it is absolutely paramount to deny equality to all people then you should vote no. If you believe that not all people deserve happiness then vote no. If you believe you have the right to interfere in other peoples decisions and who they can marry then vote no.

Ireland is on the verge of change right now. We have some very draconian traditions and laws which quite simply have no place in the modern world. Love is one of those things you don’t choose, it just happens. To live in a country where you are made to feel like a second class citizen because you are denied a basic right afforded to others must be heart breaking and utterly demoralising.

I became a father recently. My little girl is on the verge of turning 6 months old. I want nothing but happiness for her in her future. If she grows up and decides that she would like to marry the love of her life then I hope she can do so without impediment. It shouldn’t matter if that person is a male or a female, it should only matter that she loves them and that they love her.

I’ll be voting Yes in this election. My generation and the generations before me still refer to people as straight people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people and bisexual people. Maybe a yes vote will take us one step closer to my Daughters generation just having people. One big group of happy people.